After a steep plunge in sales after the introduction of comparable generics, sales of Lipitor have leveled off to settle around 37% of market share. The release of generic competition for Lipitor from two companies siphoned off 59% of sales combined in the first week of availability. Patients in the U.S. filled about 865,000 Lipitor prescriptions per week in November 2011 and the number plunged to about 397,000 prescriptions in the first full week of December.
Lipitor, considered to be the best selling drug in history, lost patent protection at the end of November 2011. Before the release of the generics, Lipitor generated nearly $7.9 billion in annual sales in the U.S. and around $11 billion worldwide. Sales of Lipitor accounted for around 16% of Pfizer’s annual revenue.
Pfizer has been fighting to retain as much market share for Lipitor as possible by aggressively discounting the drug for loyal patients, insurers, and pharmacies. Insurance companies that agreed to Pfizer’s request that they only cover branded Lipitor, not any of the competing generics, were told that they would receive the difference between what they had been paying for the brand and what they would pay for cheaper generics in return for their agreement. Insurers initially prepared to switch all of their patients on Lipitor to the generics automatically because of the chance for health insurers, plan sponsors and patients to save a significant amount of money.
Patients were offered discount cards from Pfizer that allowed them to purchase Lipitor for a $4 co-payment, a co-payment amount that is less than the co-payments of many generic medications. The goal was to entice these patients to continue taking Lipitor instead of switching to the cheaper generics. Pfizer had been running ads for the co-payment program, called “Lipitor For You,” heavily for months before the generics were available for purchase.
The new cholesterol-lowering generics on the market are atorvastatin pills from Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. and an authorized generic from Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. that is manufactured by Pfizer and marketed by Watson. Chuck Caprariello, spokesman for Ranbaxy, said the company is “delighted that we are able to market atorvastatin and we anticipate increased market share over time.” Ranbaxy has grabbed about 35% of market share.